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Finding Balance

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Summary: Post S7: Faith is sent to investigate strange occurrences in Africa, surrounding Xander, and his Slayer training observation, along with mysterious rogue Slayers.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Anime > NarutoBigHeadFR13426,242265,8397 Dec 041 Mar 05No

What’s Going On?

Chapter 2: What’s Going On?

(by 3D Master)

Faith took a sip from the water, as her jeep hobbled through growth. She put the canister aside, and then pulled out her PDA with GPS positioning, and checked her coordinates with the ones Xander had wrote down. She was still on course, she hadn’t accidentally veered off: good. She looked around, seeing a herd of elephants casually walk to her right, some zebras to her left, and one was being chased by a lion. “Fuck me,” Faith muttered, the realization of just how far off the beaten track she was slamming into her like a ton of bricks. She had been too preoccupied with unpleasant memories. She shook her head; demons, vampires, incorporeal evils - a few animals shouldn’t pose a problem to a Slayer . . . although she better keep an eye down for the little suckers having venom.

“Get a grip,” she told herself, tossing aside another memory that returned after her thoughts about venom; a slow working agonizing venom. She shuddered, and then did get a grip. She saw a mountain loom in the distance, and guessed that’s where she was headed.

Half an hour later she indeed arrived at the mountain, and the coordinates were about right. Driving partially around, and then up a path, she found herself going around a corner with a wider area behind it. Bushes and trees were to the right of the corner area, mountain behind it and everywhere else. Faith drove her jeep until the middle of the little area, and looked around with a deep frown. There was nothing here, was there?

She pulled her stake from the driver’s seat and stuffed it behind the waist of her pants. That done, she got out, and after checking the ground for snakes or whatever she looked around, taking a few steps forward till she was in front of the jeep. Why in blazes would Xander send her here? Why would he and the Slayers under his command and tutelage come here anyway? It didn’t make sense! She pulled out her PDA and checked her coordinates again; she was right there wasn’t she? Or perhaps . . . She walked straight forward till she reached the mountain wall. She looked up, and around. On a hunch she put her hand on the stone and slowly moved up and down. Her eyes widened; there was something there! She was pretty certain she wouldn’t be able to feel it without her Slayer senses; how the hell would a normal person find it? Or was that the point? Nobody would find it?

She felt around a bit more, pulled on a protrusion, nothing happened. She moved her hand more to the right, and then her eyes caught something; a tiny pattern seemed to emerge from a bunch of seemingly random dents. She moved her hand to it, and her thumb fit perfectly in one indentation, her index finger in another, and onward till all her fingers fit in it. Faith took a deep breath, her heart hammering in her chest. This was just too fucking weird. She caught herself just in time; that breath had worked.

She ran back to her jeep, pulled out a short sword and sheath with belt, and put it around her waist. Then she got an extra stake and stuffed it on the opposite side of the first one behind the waist of her tight green utility pants. A flashlight was next. She then pulled out her guns that had been laying on the driver’s seat next to her stakes at the ready, and put her double shoulder holster on, over her white low-cut spaghetti-strapped shirt. She checked her guns - two .45s fully automatic - then checked the ammo, and walked back to the mountain wall. The guns felt good; previously she had never really had a need for it - she was the Slayer, and relished it too, the adrenaline, the actual fight: guns just seemed too tame, killing from a distance. Prison had mellowed her out though, and when she and her team had found themselves outnumbered six to one, by demons, vampires and whatever else had been in that group that had come after them, and Zanna - Xander’s Zimbabwe born slayer - had pulled out her guns and taken down a few handfuls of vamps either by shooting out their knees or heads saving them all by leveling the playing field with that action, she had made a point of getting the girl to teach her and Slayers about guns. By the time they had dealt with the others, the vamps that she had shot were starting to get back up, but they were still far too out of it to resist staking.

Faith reached the mountain wall again, and took a few deep breaths. She placed her hand back in the indentations, and pushed. A moment nothing happened, and then when enough force was reached, the circular pad deepened into the mountain with a heavy clunk. Faith blinked, nothing more happened: pushing didn’t help. She tried to twist clockwise, and the pad turned. Once a quarter of a circle finished the pad suddenly started moving onward on its own. Faith pulled her hand back in reflex and took a step back, watching as the circle continued turning with ever-increasing loud noises of things twisting, and turning, and moving and clicking. It was really a quite cliché Indiana Jones moment, Faith reflected, tensing up. Things started moving left to the pad. A large rock door like structure appeared - or rather the seams between it and the mountain rock did. Then the whole rock door moved deeply into the mountain, before pulling upward and disappearing from sight, showing a dark passageway. “This is absolutely not five by five,” Faith told herself, feeling apprehensive. Everything about this felt wrong.

Carefully but steadily Faith entered the cave turning on her flashlight. The walls of the narrow passageway were too smooth to be natural, with the exception of a lot of chips that she couldn’t place. The differently marred drawings on them settled it as being unnatural. With a pounding heart Faith continued to move forward, until the cave became lighter, and it wasn’t her flashlight. She hesitated a moment, and then continued. Lighter and lighter it became until she finally reached a round enclosed chamber. Blue-white light came down from some crystals in the ceiling. In the middle of the circular room there was a slightly raised circle, which seemed to be cut in four sections. Different patches dried blood were smeared all over the room and the circle. Faith froze when she looked at the circle; flashing back to a different circle, and all those Turok-Han running and climbing up to them. The circle here wasn’t the same, but it was close enough to give Faith the shivers. She took a few more careful steps, entering the circular room, and . . .

Light suddenly came from the circle, and four quadrants slipped away and down. The light disappeared, and instantly a grey monster came out. It looked like that Gollum freak, only more vicious, with bigger teeth and muscles, and a lot more dangerous - especially with its glowing red eyes. An instant later another one of them jumped from the circle, and another, and another, and another . . .

Faith looked shocked, especially when all the demons hissed at her, and obviously considered her a good welcome home feast. The demons screeched, and obviously started to pounce toward her. She pulled her guns then and fired the first directly through a demon’s forehead. It screeched, dropped to the floor, and then lay still. The demons started surging forward, and Faith ran back out the way she came, firing back at the every growing mass of demons that were coming at her across the floor but also the walls and the ceilings - their claws cut into the rock.

Soon she arrived at the entrance and turned around the corner, needing to reload both guns twice. Shooting around the corner into the cave, she put her hand back into the pad that was now deeper into mountain. After a few moments of trying the pad turned again and reached a critical point, starting turning on its own. Some of the demons came surging out screeching, and in a fluent motion she let go of one of her guns, pulled her sword, and decapitated one. Fear and adrenaline gripped her as the she could hear the mechanisms turning, and the doorway slowly closing. While this happened she was hacking and slashing. She dropped the now empty gun, stabbing another demon that came at her to die. In a quick free moment, she picked up her other gun again, and was able to get four more deadly shots before it was empty and the door was finally closed. She kept her eye on the closed door for a few more moments, and then she leaned back against the wall, breathing with relief, and slowly let herself sink down amidst the demon corpses. She kicked a few directly below her aside so she could sit. She looked around at the carnage she had wrought, then at the scratches and deeper cuts where the demons had managed to get to her. Suddenly there was a bright light and a whoosh come from behind the hidden doorway.

Faith looked back and up at the door breathing hard. Why in blazes would Xander send her here? Did he want her dead? That just couldn’t be? Or had he really taken his Slayers down there to try and stop it, and sent her the coordinates so everyone knew the danger was here . . . that would mean they’d all be dead, and why clean up all your stuff before such a mission? It made no sense. Nothing about this made any sense. She got up slowly, holding her sword. She took her guns back, reloaded them, and after a moment thinking over it, she once more opened the doorway. When it was open, the corridor was clean, none of the corpses she had killed inside were there - that light a cleaning method. She then pulled the corpses that were lying outside in, and closed the doorway again. Once more there was a light a short while after it was closed.

Faith shook her head; this didn’t make any sense. “What the flying fuck is going on!?” she screamed out her frustration. Then she noticed something: something was pinned to one of the trees to the side. That hadn’t been there before, or had it? She walked over, and found an envelope. She took it, and then opened it. A new note was in there, saying, ‘Come to Masumbue.’

“What the hell?” Faith asked and looked around, trying to see if she could see anyone - she couldn’t. Masumbue was where Xander had had his operation. But had been deserted, hadn’t it? This whole deal was getting even /more/ weird, and given she had just been at a Hellmouth or some friggin’ seal just sealing away a bunch of demons, that was saying something. With her heart pounding in her throat, afraid it might be another trap, but having no real choice - she just had to be careful, she got in her jeep. She started it and then drove away.

A moment later a figure stepped casually out of the bushes, greenery disappearing from her to reveal a girl. “It’s Diria, she was just here,” the girl spoke coolly.

“She figured it out, she didn’t lose control, and she didn’t need my help,” she spoke again. “Yes, I think it’s promising . . . she’s not capable of detecting an illusion though, she looked right at me too.”

“I’m following her,” she then confirmed, and nodded. She walked back into the greenery and a few bushes and trees flattened and wrapped around the shape of a jeep. Diria got in, started it, and drove off gently behind Faith. The moment her jeep left the greenery on the side of the mountain, the greenery shimmered out of existence.

*****

Kalinda returned to her training, and living village. First she went to the one she reported to. Entering the training dojo, she passed a few Slayers in heavy training. Then she went into the small side office and looked at the woman with long raven hair, and red-brown eyes. “And?” she asked.

Kalinda looked at her, shook her head, and said, “It’s spread to almost half her body, and not just her chakra. It’s started to affect her organs and blood as well.”

“Do you think she can get it under control, or is it too late?” the raven-haired woman asked.

“If she starts quickly, preferably right now, perhaps,” Kalinda answered seriously.

“Not yet, we have to test her intelligence first, see if it is being affected,” the woman answered.

“You think it does?” Kalinda asked.

The woman looked at her for a moment, and then said, “Judging from the stories about Buffy, and seeing their correctness given who’s told them, yes.” Kalinda nodded, and then was told she could go clean up, and start her training.

*****

A two-hour drive and an almost empty tank later Faith arrived at Masumbue. She looked at the small town in front of her rented car. Faith was glad this was a dirt road, asphalt would be like a baking plain in this burning sun, even now - with the sun setting - the heat made her uncomfortable. The town itself held about 10,000 people, and had a diameter of about three kilometers, but wasn’t a perfect circle. To the left and behind her there was Savannah, forward and to the right of the small town there was a light tropical forest. The town itself was made of stone, and further down the road - about center of town - Faith could already see shop signs; obviously this town was rather modern, in comparison to where she had been before; although compared to western standards, especially considering the lack of hardened roads, it was still primitive. She opened the little dashboard cabinet, took out a booklet and checked Xander’s address. It would supposedly be empty, but she would check.

Once she had the address, and she punched in her GPS as destination, she carefully drove into the town. She looked around, studied the buildings, and especially the people - if they even were people, she knew of a few demons that could appear human - to see if she saw something that might give her a clue about what the hell was going on. After five minutes of slow driving, several times going left and right, she reached what was considered the outskirts of town and found what was supposedly Xander’s abandoned house. The house was nice, had a fence and a rather big garden. It almost had a ‘white picket fence’ feel and size to it, which meant it would probably be considered /huge/ by the rest of the town’s and African standards. Faith shut down her jeep, re-checked that she had reloaded her guns, and only then slowly got out of her jeep. After opening and closing the fence, Faith came up the front door, but decided to go around the white house. Windows were covered, she found, as if someone inside didn’t want the sun to shine in - in short it didn’t seem abandoned. Had someone else chosen to inhabit the house? The windows were all closed though, so perhaps it was uninhabited after all . . . or perhaps they had air-conditioning. When she rounded the first corner she heard a light thumping, and she carefully walked onward. Reaching the back yard, she could now identify the thumping as an engine sound, and it seemed to be coming from a shed. Well, that settled the inhabitation question. She examined the shed without going closer, and saw two electric cables come out the wall of the shed, and then disappeared underground right away.

She looked around more, and the house had three steps leading up to the back door, which incidentally had a window not covered by anything it seemed. Carefully she walked up the steps, looked through the window into a kitchen, and saw . . . Xander . . . casually preparing dinner. Faith’s eyes widened, and kept looking at Xander for a few more seconds, before knocking on the door. Xander looked up, and smiled when he saw her. He came over, opened the door, and with a smile and a frown asked, “Faith! What are you doing here?”

Faith looked into his one eye - the patch really made him look rather mysterious and deep. He looked damn good. Then she spoke, “I could ask you the same thing. You’re supposed to have disappeared.”

Xander raised his eyebrows in further surprise, and stepped aside - even though the sun was still out, old habits died hard. As Faith walked in he spoke, “What the hell are you talking about?”

Faith turned around to face him, and leant back against the round kitchen table. “Giles sent me here to go look for you. He said a couple of months ago, you and your Slayers had just disappeared, but your still here. He also told me about some Slayers with odd abilities.”

“Oh, not /that/ again,” Xander answered leaning back against the counter, taking a moment to check the cooking food; the smell of which incidentally was getting Faith hungry - ravenous was more like it. Faith give him a questioning look, and with a smile he said, “I don’t know why Giles would lie to you about me not being here, but “rogue slayers with powers” story is starting to come out my nose.” Xander actually made the quotes in the air, and continued to do so as he spoke, “Some seven or so months ago a few “people” reported seeing a few and the “council” asked me to investigate. I did: there are /no/ “supergirl slayers”. But the reports kept coming in, I kept telling there were none, and apparently those who came here to pick up a Slayer, or deliver one, or for other reasons were given the alternate order to keep their eyes open, and have apparently seen something. /I/ have yet to see one, I /can/ tell you that I saw some odd stuff when I first got here too.” Xander pointed up and finished, “It’s the heat, when you’re not used to it yet, you start to see things; especially if you try to look for things that aren’t there, you get to see the very things you’re looking for, even if there’s nothing - many a times did I jump away from nightmarish monstrous snakes, before my body got used to the heat.”

Faith finished listening to Xander’s story, while she was mauling through recent events. If she couldn’t trust Giles to tell the truth, who the hell could she trust? Since getting here she was sent on a giant roller coaster ride, wait . . . “Why don’t you know I’m here? You had me sent a letter two years ago, to Mboto, with coordinates to another Seal.”

“Huh?” Xander wondered.

After some searching through her backpack, she produced the letter. She gave it to Xander and said, “Look, it’s old.”

Xander quickly looked it over, and smiled, “Old paper doesn’t mean old writing, Faith.” He gave a few chuckles, and Faith looked both pissed, annoyed and stupid. “It’s the standard test we give all girls sent here when they arrive alone. 85 percent don’t even find the lock. It shows how well they are already in tune with what they are. As an added extra bonus, those who come here with a cocky, or an optimistic ‘look how cool this adventure is, I’m a super hero’ attitude very quickly get an immediate attitude adjust by a good dose of reality; fighting against overwhelming odds, and most likely die young.”

Faith shook her head, Giles lying still imbalanced her, and she asked, “Isn’t that a little dangerous, not just to the Slayer but to the world as well? And I could have died.”

Xander shook his head with a smile, “The place is rigged with several big explosives. If something should go wrong, or something actually seeks to set the things in that cave free, we just have to push a button - the seal and everything will go sky high, after which the mountain comes down upon it. You were never in any danger too; you were given a guard who knows the place perfectly, and here she is too.”

A black girl arrived at the back door in the kitchen, and Xander grabbed a baking pan, shaking the contents about. “Diria, exactly why wasn’t I told about Faith coming here?” Xander asked with a powerful command voice, that made Faith shiver - a good shiver, but definitely a shiver - if it could make her, the one it was not aimed it shiver, it had to be far worse for the Slayer. Judging from Diria’s jittery reaction that was exactly the case.

“W-well, uh, we knew you would never let us put her through the test, and we wanted to play a little prank on her; you were never in any real danger, I promise,” Diria spoke a little shaky.

“I never saw her,” Faith said, rather surprised.

“That’s my area of expertise, /not/ get noticed,” the black-skinned Slayer told Faith with a sly smile.

“You and everyone in on it, will go through several severe disciplinary actions. Go find all of them, and get them at six sharp tomorrow morning at the square, now,” Xander ordered, and the Slayer was off like a bat. “I’m sorry about that, Faith,” Xander apologized, “they didn’t let you get hurt did they?”

Faith shook her head, “A few scratches, already almost healed. I just need a shower, and- . . .” Faith’s stomach growled loudly.

“Food, I take it,” Xander said with a grin that made Faith blush with embarrassment over her traitorous stomach.

“Xander, food ready yet?” a female’s voice spoke as the door to a hallway opened, admitting a beautiful raven-haired woman, slightly dripping and holding a towel. She only wore a g-string and was topless, which - after surprisedly taking in Faith - she remedied by tying the towel around. The towel incidentally didn’t even come low enough to cover the women’s entire ass, the lower rounding stayed visible. The two women took each other in, and Faith was truck by her odd reddish eyes.

“Kurenai this is the infamous Faith Williams. Faith, this is Yuuh Kurenai, my girlfriend,” Xander said, making Faith looked shocked. That was a new bombshell, in more ways than one.

The women shook hands, and Kurenai spoke, “I know who she is.”

“You were in on it?” Xander accused. Faith was curious about this outcome.

“Uh, yeah, sorry,” the beautiful woman spoke, looked Xander deep in his eyes, and started a deep French kiss with him. She broke the kiss again, and said, “Sorry?”

“Oh, for . . . Go help Faith get ready for dinner - clothes, shower, bandages if necessary, you owe her that much; dinner will be ready in fifteen,” Xander said shaking his head in defeat. “And Faith, hang the guns on the rack, okay?”

“Come on,” Kurenai said and pulled Faith along.

Xander returned to his cooking, then turned around and looked at Faith’s retreating back. His one eye suddenly changed - to a red one with three black dots in it. He looked at Faith, seeing her aura now, her life force. It was the Slayer-characteristic dark purple color, except from her belly the purple had turned utter black. It covered almost half of her body, a quarter down, and a quarter up. Throughout the still purple aura Xander could see small flecks of black, sometimes appearing, and sometimes disappearing. His eye turned to normal again, and he sadly shook his head.

*****

The two women were on their way. “You don’t seem African,” Faith pointed out, as she was lead into the hallway, toward the stairs and an upstairs bathroom no doubt.

Faith hung her guns on clothes rack, and Kurenai spook, “I’m from Asia.”

Faith’s eyes widened at that and then as they continued up the stairs, she said, “You don’t seem very Asian either.”

Kurenai chuckled and said, “I’m from a rather hidden part of Asia. On several islands and pieces of main land there are a few counties who carry very different names locally then is known in the rest of the world. Each of these countries has an hidden ninja village, founded between a century and a few centuries ago with the exception of one very recently founded - the villages took in anyone of any disposition who had any kind of special skills or was willing to put in the effort to become an integral part of the village. I’m from Konoha, the Fire County’s Hidden Leaf Village.”

“What are you doing here?” Faith asked the woman half-suspicious, half-curious as they reached the top of the stairs.

The other raven-haired woman, that was a few centimeters taller than Faith, answered with a smile, “Apart from Xander you mean?” Faith gave Kurenai a glare that told her Faith was not amused.

“I mean, how did you and Xander meet, and got . . . acquainted with each other,” Faith clarified.

As Kurenai gestured to the bathroom, she explained, “Xander came looking for us, he’d had some kind of vision, of which I still don’t know all the details. We met, hit it off, and decided to come with him; help with training the Slayers and all that - he’s just too irresistible.”

Faith smiled, she had heard a few of the potentials-made-Slayers gushing over Xander like that after he was gone. Well, not quite, but they had most certainly complained about the lack of good-looking, bare-chested, hot-smelling sweaty men doing carpeting, or any good-looking men in general. It seemed that the old guard of Watchers before a new one was recruited was not very appetizing - apart from Giles in Faith’s opinion, but the Slayers hadn’t seen enough of him to see that. Now that there was a new guard recruited the complaints were far less - at least when it came to Xander. Now when the other Watchers were out they were complaining about them being missed. Slayer drives - sexual included - should not be underestimated. “So he really /did/ have a vision then? Apparently without me in it,” Faith said, not knowing if she should be relieved or disappointed about that.

“Yes, could you give me your keys? Then while you shower I can get your luggage,” Kurenai requested with a smile. Faith handed over the keys without reservation.

*****

Dinner had been tasty, as well as uneventful. They had talked about political situations, and resulting danger areas in Africa, with Tanzania in particular which was rather stable in comparison - a reason why Xander chose to put his training facilities here. Whether conditions, sleeping arrangements - guest room - other requirements had been other topics of the talking. Faith also asked Kurenai if she just grew up in a village, or if she actually was a ninja. Yes, she was a ninja. Faith asked her about what she could do. Her answer: trained from the moment she could walk: she could fight, climb high and fast, very strong, run extremely far and fast, camouflage techniques, illusionary tricks - nothing magical though.

After dinner the first thing Faith did was call Watcher Headquarters, and see what she could find out about Giles and his lie. Buffy was the one she got on the phone after a short hold. #Faith, report,# the senior Slayer’s voice sounded from the other side.

“Hey, B, how are you? Nice to hear your voice too,” Faith replied sarcastically. How the hell Buffy could still manage to rile her up, Faith didn’t know - but no matter how much they connected back in the now crater, she continued to rub the dark-haired Slayer the wrong way. She also knew this wasn’t some territorial shit they had kind of discussed, seeing as she has no problems with the many Slayers that came after.

#This is no time for your attitude, Faith, have you found something yet?# Buffy asked across the distance separating them.

“Yeah, Giles lied to me,” Faith spoke bitterly.

#What!?# Buffy exclaimed.

Faith nodded automatically as she spoke, “Yep, sent me here ‘to find Xander and his Slayers who disappeared two months ago’, now I’m here, but no disappearance. They are right here where they are supposed to be.”

Silence reigned for a few seconds, before Buffy hissed, #That little . . . perhaps I shouldn’t have trusted him just yet! Faith, your real mission is quite simple; there are reports all over the area, and even a few farther away, of rogue Slayers with a lot of strange abilities . . .#

“Yeah, I know, I’ve heard of them, Xander says they don’t exist. I have to find them?” Faith interrupted the senior Slayer.

Buffy’s reply came, #Yes, and recruit them if possible. Also find out why Xander is so incompetent at finding them, and if that’s true replace him. If he’s lying about them not being there, you have to find out why, and replace him, as well as kick him back here.#

“Xander? Lying? About this? I don’t- . . .” Faith started.

#Faith, like you just said, Giles lied to you, you can’t trust Xander, Faith, don’t let yourself be fooled by his nice and sweet helpful attitude - he’s betrayed me before, you were present I believe,# Buffy’s answer came.

Faith hung her head in shame; even though it wasn’t really her fault, or how the hell everyone could have decided differently under the circumstances. The dark Slayer sighed: Buffy was right about Giles and by extension Xander though. She said, “Got you, B, trust no one, and the truth is out there.”

#Exactly, call us when you find something, while I go interrogate Giles. I get something from him, I’ll give you a call too, bye,# Buffy answered and the phone went dead.

*****

“GILES!” Buffy’s voice screamed as she walked into Giles’ London Watcher Headquarters office.

“Yes, Buffy,” Giles answered with just a hint of annoyance.

“Why did you lie to Faith?!” Buffy demanded with extreme irritation.

Faith drew himself from his comfortable living chair, and said, “I do believe it was you who protested Faith be sent because she’d trust Xander too much. I took your protest into consideration, agreed with it, and to make her understand she can’t trust anyone, not even Xander, I lied to her. Now she’s there with a healthy sense of distrust, and also nobody’s there ‘investigating’ Xander who’s already condemned him before he or she even starts.”

“I should never have taken that time off; I /still/ can’t believe you people gave him permission to do whatever the hell he wants to,” Buffy told him angrily.

Giles told her with a smile, “The best Slayers come from him.”

“In firearms usage,” Buffy bit back.

Giles gave Buffy a nod of acknowledgment. “Speaking of your time off,” Giles spoke friendly, smiling, “how /is/ your significant other?”

Buffy grimaced, almost growled, and spoke, “I’ll be keeping an eye on you, just in case you’re not telling me the truth.” Buffy then whirled around and stalked out of the room.

With a sigh Giles sat back down. “Sometimes I wish you had just told me a more convincing lie, instead of telling me the truth,” Giles said.

A side door opened, revealing Dawn, who told him with a sad smile, “You guys never did have the stomach for this cloak and dagger stuff.” Giles sighed again.

*****

Faith had no idea what to do now. Xander not trustworthy? Giles not trustworthy? She was pacing in her appointed room thinking things over. She so desperately wanted to speak to Xander, but what if . . . Faith shook her head, as she realized something - she might not know whether Xander was trustworthy, but she did know Zanna was trustworthy.

Faith left her room and went down the stairs. “Xander?” she tentatively called.

“In the living room,” came his reply.

Faith went to the living room, taking in his DVD home-cinema set; that and the kitchen only two things truly new. He sat there with Kurenai in his lap, and she asked, nervous about interrupting the two, “C-could I talk to you - alone that is?”

“Sure,” Kurenai answered and left them alone.

Faith walked closer to Xander. He patted the place of the couch next to his, and asked her, “What’s the matter, Faith?”

Faith sat down, and looked at Xander. “I’m not exactly alright,” she told him sadly. Xander looked at her expectedly. “I-I lost control a while ago. I was fighting demons, and I just dropped the stake and went at it with my bare fists - over and over . . . and over. Then it happened again . . .” Faith choked up and tears were in her eyes.

“Tell me,” Xander said gently, hugging her close.

“It was the same night Giles came to give me my mission,” Faith stumbled out, remembering. “At the time Wood and me were having problems and I thought it may have been me, I thought it may have been both of us, I thought that perhaps we just weren’t meant to be . . . in hindsight I’m pretty certain it was all him though . . .”

- - O - -

That Night

Faith finished swallowing her late snack sandwich when her phone rang. She got out her phone, turned it on, and said, “Hello.”

#Faith, Robin,# the answer came, he sounded out of breath - running. #We’re in trouble . . .#

“Where are you?” Faith asked, suddenly alert, an adrenaline surge going through her body. Wood gave her his position. Faith told him they were coming, put the phone away as she burst into the living room of the Slayer house. She ignored the Watcher sitting along with three Slayers watching TV, she simply commanded, “Zanna, Jessica, Drew, let’s move. Robin and his team are in trouble, let’s go!”

The African, redhead, and brunette were instantly up an about. After a quick delay to the armory, they were off. They went as fast as they could in the rickety van they used. Finally - much too slow for Faith’s liking - they arrived at the street with old rundown buildings. The four slayers got out, and after quickly checking the GPS with the homing beacon (another idea coming from Zanna / Xander allowing for quick and easy finding of Slayers in trouble) they charged to the old apartment building. This was the place - although there didn’t seem to be any damage done by demons. The four slayers looked around carefully once inside the main entrance. There were some doors, one at least to a utility closet, and to the right of the lobby they were in there was an elevator, and another door next to it with a ‘stairs’ sign. They raced over to the stairs - any demons were usually in the basement, and with Slayer strength simply jumping down stairs in one bout made them far quicker than any elevator. The moment the door to the stairs clicked closed behind them, there was click and then suddenly a hissing sound. A moment later the surprised Slayers started coughing and then they dropped to the floor. Then a man in a gas mask emerged from the stairs upward, and took the girls with him.
With a groan Faith slowly came to, opening her eyes. Her vision swam at first, but then cleared. She frowned when she saw the cold, grey ceiling above her. She tried to sit up, but found she couldn’t move. She looked left, and her eyes widened when she saw Jessica coming to with a groan as well. The girl was chained to the wall, next to her was one from Robin’s Slayer team. With a quick look down and up, Faith found her feeling was correct: she was lying on some form of alter, or slab of stone, equally chained in some kind of cellar. To the right Faith could see Zanna . . . and Robin, the latter completely free.

“Hello, Faith, good that you’re awake, yes, yes,” Robin said with a smile - a smile that sent shivers through Faith - and not of the kind that made her climb on top of a man.

“R-robin, what are you doing?” Faith asked, aware of two more Slayers coming to, and the fear coming of the ones from Robin’s team in waves.

“You’ll be the first,” Robin spoke turning around and bringing a cart to the front. Several scalpels and other razor sharp implements lay on top of it, as well as several magical ingredients and a spell book.

“The first? The first of what?” Faith said, struggling against the bonds almost automatically, but not budging them one little bit.

“No use trying that, Beautiful, I had them magically enhanced, you won’t even budge them,” Robin spoke with a grin. Faith continued anyway, as she watched him pick up a scalpel.

“What are you doing?” Faith asked him with rising panic and adrenaline.

“You see, I figured it out; Buffy knew, but she didn’t tell anyone,” Robin spoke with a sickening grin. “You’re demons; Slayers all of them, what gives you your power is a demonic entity . . .”

“No, that’s not true,” Faith said, struggling harder.

“Oh, but it is, I went researching, spying, after I suspected, and you know why I suspected, Faith, my precious?” Robin spoke with a sweet smile - /far/ too sweet. Faith didn’t answer, she just struggled, while most of the Slayers just looked at the spectacle in shock. “It’s because you damn Slayers are skanks, that’s why. You put demons over humans - when you have children you don’t even love them. The only thing you can do is fight, abandon your kids, and get yourselves killed by sickening vampires. Yes, I’ll bet Mother secretly got off on it, on the thrill that perhaps he’d rape her before killing her first, or just the thrill of suffering a defeat at the hands of a demon. You choose your rapist vampires over your best friends, go to check up on his bumps when one of those friends might be bleeding to death. Your attitudes of superiority over humans. Your flirting with men and even demons just before you kill them - yes, I’m ignored, demons more important.”

“I’m not like that!” Faith said desperately, struggling harder. “Flirts mean nothing with a guy, you know that - and with demons it’s a weapon, puts them off their game, Robin, please.”

“Oh, but I know, Faith, don’t worry, I know,” Robin said gently, and walked over. He gave her a sweet kiss on her forehead, making Faith relax a bit with confusion. He then gave her a passionate fiery tongue kiss, which she reluctantly returned in complete confusion. Robin stood back up and said, “I love you, Faith, I know it’s not you, it’s the demon. That’s why I’ll cleanse you first. The ritual requires a sacrifice - the heart from the possessed . . .” Faith’s face blanched and she redoubled her efforts, while Robin continued, “. . . it will remove the demon from the soul, so the soul can go unblemished to heaven, and the demon will be burning in hell. I will set you free, my beautiful, I will save you. I only wish I knew this earlier so I could have saved my mother.”

Robin then bent forward, and moved the scalpel to just in between Faith’s breasts. “No! NO! Robin NO! Please! I- I- . . .” Faith was desperate as she struggled harder and harder, perhaps it was better to play along. “. . . I know too, Robin, perhaps I’ve always known. But I don’t want to do, there has to be a way to get it out without killing me, letting us all live, Robin?”

Robin looked confused for a moment, and then shook his head, “No, this is the only way.” He then lowered the scalpel again, while Faith’s adrenaline went through the roof, struggling with every little bit of might she could call upon to break the shackles that kept her hands to the stone slab.

Something inside of her snapped then, and with a roar she pulled. Robin had done good work: the magically-enhanced shackles really were unbreakable to the Slayer, it was just that he forgot about the stone slab. With a mighty crack the stone slab broke and sprang apart where the shackles were screwed into the stone. The shackles and its screws then flew through the air completely unblemished. With a growl her right hand shot forward, grabbed Robin’s wrist, and squeezed hard. Robin yelled out in pain, dropping the scalpel. With her left hand Faith wiped it aside. At the same time she let Robin’s wrist go, and smacked him aside with her now free hand. She sat up suddenly, not really aware of what she was doing; only the burning, tunnel-vision need to hurt the one responsible burning through her. She grabbed the shackles around her feet and tore at them with a roar. Like before, the stone table blasted apart, and the shackles came loose, also unblemished. Faith then jumped off the slab, and saw Robin already standing with a split lip. He had a new scalpel with which he lunged. Faith grabbed his hand before he could hit her, and snapped it with a vicious yank. As Robin dropped the scalpel, Faith yanked Robin forward and tossed him through the air. He crashed headfirst into a wall next to one of the slayers and crashed to the floor, where he lay groaning on his stomach.

Growling Faith ran over and smashed her foot with all her might in the middle of Robin’s back. There was a snap, and Robin screamed out in pain. Faith brought her foot down again, causing a crack and another scream this time. While she was doing this she kept hissing and growling profanities. Then she brought her fists down, each once, feeling her hands slam into the bad guy’s back with satisfaction. Then she lunged both hands forward, intent on grabbing his neck and squeezing it until he was dead.

Two more hands appeared out of nowhere though, stopping her. Faith registered the black-skinned hands only as an obstruction, and she put more effort into moving her hands toward the bad guy’s neck. Only when they didn’t move did she look up - up in the black girl’s face the hands belonged to. Her mouth was moving, but there didn’t seem to be any sound coming from them, or perhaps there was? Faintly? So very far away? “Faith! It’s done, Faith!”

“You’ve got him, Faith! He’s already out! We’re safe, you’re safe! It’s over, Faith! You hear me!?” Zanna called out loudly, looking with a little apprehension in the vicious, primitive look Faith had on her face: a simple need to kill, to destroy, to hurt. For a few moments she was even afraid the senior Slayer might turn on her. Zanna wasn’t exactly friends with Faith, but she definitely considered herself a companion, a partner. “Faith, you already got him! There’s no need to kill him, you got that, Faith? Do you hear me?”

Finally, much to Zanna’s relief, intelligence dawned on Faith’s face once more, the strength behind her hands slipping away. Faith then suddenly looked down, recognizing the damage she did to /Robin’s/ body. “Oh, My God!” Faith exclaimed in shock. “Oh, My God.”

- - O - -

“I broke his spine, Xan, he’ll never walk again,” Faith sniffed, while Xander closed his arms tighter around her shoulder. Faith half cried, going closer to Xander, burying her head in his chest, and whimpered, “He was trying to kill me and the other Slayers, which was bad, but he wasn’t exactly right in the head. I don’t know when or where he snapped, or if he was ever not snapped to begin with, but . . .” Faith looked up, and looked pitifully into Xander’s eyes, “Xan, I was done hurting people. I didn’t want it anymore, never again. I hated myself for what I did - hated myself. I would never do it again, and now . . . now . . .”

“Shh,” Xander soothed holding her close, and Faith broke down fully, crying and crying.

After five minutes she regained herself, and said, “I spent the whole night crying, mostly in Giles’ arms, but Zanna came along as well. Th-this thing, something made me go all nuts, all feral, Zanna said- . . . Zanna said you could help me . . . was Robin right? Is there a demon inside of us?”

Xander looked deeply inside Faith’s eyes, and said, “I don’t know, I don’t think so. I’ll look into it, thoroughly. I don’t quite know why Zanna thought I could help, just like that, but I’ll find a way to keep you you, Faith, that’s a promise. Tomorrow, I will first teach you the eight brocades Qi Gong exercises, and some Tai Chi, and finally meditation techniques. I doubt they’ll solve the problem like that; but they’re designed to give you balance, and give your mind and your life force power and some control over your body - it should definitely help till I find a more permanent solution, okay?”

Faith looked up at him, sniffed a final time, and slowly smiled. “Tai Chi? Qi Gong? Meditation? I didn’t know there was a Watcher Academy. You were a great fighter Xander, but I can’t remember you being a guru. What happened?”

Xander chuckled, and then said, “Oz should be back tomorrow from a mission with his Slayer team. You weren’t close to him before or after your trip to the dark side, but perhaps you’d want to apologize to him anyway, for trying to kill his friends and girlfriend and such.”

“Oz? He’s here? How did that happen? And what has that got to do with you being a guru,” Faith wondered out loud, coming steadily out of her funk.

“One and the same story, Faith, one and the same story, want to hear it?” Xander asked her with a smile. She nodded. Xander grinned, and said, “Well, now, let me see. It was just after my vision quest experience, and I can’t really tell you about that - too personal and close to home, and I can’t really tell where - the hermit didn’t leave and hid himself for nothing - and seeing as he came from the Hidden Ninja villages - did we tell you about where Kurenai is from?” Faith nodded, and so Xander continued, “He was extra secretive, so I’ll just have to give you the basics. Anyway, this is about three years ago, only two or so months after Sunnydale was reduced to a hole in the ground, and the vision gave the strong notion that I go east. So I boarded a plane to Thailand, which seemed the right place at the time, and land in the capital’s airport. That’s where I run into . . .”

“Oz . . .” Faith supplied.

“Am I telling this story, or are you?” Xander asked the Slayer sternly.

“You,” Faith answered sheepishly.

Xander nodded satisfactory, and said, “That’s right, so let me tell the story.” Faith couldn’t help but smile, and then Xander finished, “and no, it wasn’t Oz, it was Dawn . . .”
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